Homelessness and Housing Crisis
We are in the middle of a homeless and a housing crisis. There are more people at risk of homelessness, more people becoming homeless and more people are turning to the Simon Communities for support. We saw a 24% increase in the number of people using our services around Ireland in 20121, and the numbers continue to grow. There are 89,872 households on the social housing waiting list, rents have increased by 8.9% nationally and the number of properties available to rent has declined sharply. Furthermore, rent supplement levels are proving insufficient to meet the cost of many rental properties. Cutbacks to funding for housing support, for health services, probation and welfare services, education and training services etc, all have knock-on effects that contribute to homelessness. This combination of factors can trigger homelessness in the first place but can also prevent people from moving out of homelessness. It is in this context that the Government has committed to ending long term homelessness and rough seeping by 2016 using a housing-led approach.
It is now clear austerity budget measures are having the biggest impact on people who are most vulnerable in our society; significant policy shift is required to address our growing social housing and income adequacy needs. The reliance on the private sector to provide social housing has demonstrably failed. We need substantial investment in social housing allied to provision in private rented sector. It needs vision, decisiveness, political will and the commitment on the part of the practitioners and providers to deliver quality social housing. However, it also needs to be resourced.
Ending homelessness requires more than just housing; those with higher support needs must have the option of accessing appropriate support as necessary. This includes housing support, health and social care support based on need. The Government must reappraise the upfront investment required to generate the flow of accommodation that, along with adequate support, will enable people who have been homeless to take up sustainable housing options.